Category Archives: consumerism

All that Glitters May Not Be Your Friend

This may surprise Marilyn, but diamonds are not a girl’s best friend and all that glitters is not gold, or green for that matter. Okay, I’ll stop, enough cliches for today.

Mining for minerals needed for jewelry is not an environmental practice. In fact, mining for these natural elements consumes huge amounts of energy, releases pollutants and greenhouse gases into the air, allows toxic chemicals to seep into groundwater, damages land, speeds up erosion and generates and unbelievable amount of waste. Metal mining was the number one toxic polluter in the United States in 2008 (as of 2010), responsible for more that 25 percent of all reported toxic releases.

In addition to the environmental hazards, mining is also associated with socially devastating practices. Diamonds fund violence against citizens, especially in African countries such as Angola and Sierra Leone. The United Nations defines conflict diamonds as, “diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.”

    Gold-mining is one of the dirtiest practices in the world. Gold mining conditions are dangerous for workers, it is responsible for three percent of work deaths globally. Additionally, the average gold mine uses enough water to provide the basic water needs for a population equivalent to that of a large U.S. city for a year. The open pits are required to be enormous (the largest is the Bingham Canyon mine in Utah is visible from outer space) destroying beautiful landscapes, wildlife habitat and important ecosystems.

    Are you outraged? You probably should be, otherwise you must not like animals…

    No Dirty Gold is a campaign that is working toward stopping dirty mining practices around the world and to prevent the sale of gold that has been mined in an unsustainable way. 

    But don’t fret, you can still get your bling on and all that. Here’s the part in the blog post where I inform you of where you can buy earth-conscious jewelry:

    • The best option is always to buy used. Find jewelry at antique, consignment and thrift stores or your grandma’s jewelry box.
    • Green Karat – synthetic gems and recycled metals.
    • Brilliant Earth – recycled metals and conflict-free diamonds for engagement and wedding bands.
    • Leber Jeweler – Earthwise line of conflict-free gems and reclaimed metals.
    • Tiffany – conflict-free diamonds and responsible metal mining, oh and those little blue boxes are made from Forest Stewardship Council certified paper.

    Green is the New Black: An Info Guide for Fashionistas

    About a week ago I read an article about consumerism. Basically the author was suggesting that in order to be sustainable you should stop purchasing. Anything. My response was that this is an unreasonable request. This may work for some people but it isn’t practical for the majority. Being green should be an attractive lifestyle to all kinds of people. I think the more important lesson for the green fashionista is to be conscience of WHAT your buying and both the quality and quantity of these items.

    In Greening Your Home Part 1 (Big Purchases) and Part 2 (Decorating), I talk about learning your personal style for home decor instead of following every current trend. The same applies to your wardrobe and this an info guide for all you fashionistas because green is the new black (I always love in books or movies when a character says the title).

    Make the cuts

    The first step to a greener wardrobe is to edit it. I don’t mean get rid of everything that isn’t made of sustainable materials and replace these things with pieces that are more environmentally-friendly. That would be the opposite of green. What I mean is find the time to look at every article of clothing that you own. Assign a spot on the floor for YES and a spot for NO.

    Look at each item carefully; try them on if you need to. Ask yourself:

    • Do I like this item?
    • Does it look good on me?
    • Do I feel good while wearing this?
    • Is it torn or have holes?
    • Can I fix it within a week?
    • Do I dread seeing someone while wearing this?
    • Do I only wear it on laundry day?

    If you haven’t worn something for a year, you probably don’t need it anymore. Some things (a wedding or bridesmaids dress, Halloween costumes, etc.) are exceptions. If you can’t think of a good reason to keep something, don’t! Put it in the NO pile and get it out of your life.

    I don’t believe in MAYBE piles. I always end up keeping everything and it’s just a waste of time trying to kid yourself. Give yourself clear guidelines about what stays and what goes, and stick to them. Purging your wardrobe is oddly satisfying.

    Develop a Shopping Strategy

    If you have a game plan before you leave your house about how you plan to shop you will be more likely to keep on the righteous path toward green (I’m officially a green crusader after that statement). Here are a few tips that might help you on your journey.

    • Always keep at least one reusable shopping bag by your front door or in your car. There is so much information about the evils of both plastic and paper bags but this post has neither the time nor the space so in the meantime you’ll have to take my word for it. When asked if you want paper or plastic always respond by saying, “Neither, I care about my planet and have brought my own bag.” Or something along those lines.
    • Make a list and stick to it. If you make a list you will (hopefully) only include the things you really need, and you will resist the urge to go shopping out of boredom. Think of all the things you can do with your time now. Also, by sticking to the list you won’t be caught off guard by those strategically placed items that stores are so good at setting up in order to encourage you to buy on impulse.
    • Opt for organic or sustainable materials. As I mentioned in Greening Your Home Part 2, conventional cotton  farming practices are the most pesticide-intensive in the world. Organic cotton is more expensive but is also more luxurious and used in better quality clothing, which means you won’t have to buy clothes as often. Silk, cashmere, and wool are all sustainable materials, linen and hemp come from plants that even when not grown organically require very little treatment with pesticides.
    • Consider vintage, consignment and thrifting. Now I could go on for pages about how much fun I find thrift stores (and I probably will at some point, so look forward to that). But the main thing you should take away from this post today is that clothes that are used require no additional energy to manufacture, the energy is already used and gone. Also you won’t be wearing the same outfit as a hundred other people.
    Some e-cards is really helping me tell a story today. They just really understand my life.
    • Don’t get suckered by sales. Sales are a clever ploy to get you to buy things you don’t need. There is a sale for every occasion: Father’s Day, Labor Day, After-Christmas, 4th of July. I know when you look at that label for 75% off it can be tempting, but just because you can get a brand-new shower head that also brews coffee for $19.95 doesn’t mean you need it.
    • Treat everyone you come across with respect. No matter where you are shopping or what you are buying, everyone deserves  to be treated with dignity, respect and friendliness. If you are unhappy about a policy or product, the people you come in contact with are not to blame.

    Where to Buy

    Now is the time I give you a list of the places you should be making purchases from. This list comes from A Better World Handbook and is ranked based on five factors: Human Rights, The Environment, Animal Protection, Community Involvement and Social Justice. They also have a Shopping Guide.

    • A Companies – are social and environmental leaders
    • B Companies – tend to be mainstream companies taking social/environmental responsibility seriously
    • C Companies – have either mixed social and environmental records or insufficient data to rank them
    • D Companies – engage in practices that have significant negative impact on people and the planet
    • F Companies – have the worst social and environmental records

    10 Myths About "Green" Living

    You may not notice it in everyday life but current trends show a decrease in agricultural lands and wilderness as urban areas spread. Consumerism rules the hearts and minds of U.S. citizens and pollution and species decline are on the rise. Turning these trends around will take action on the individual level. We can’t leave it up to the arguably corrupt political system in this country, which panders to exploitative special interests. We can’t leave it up to the extremist organizations. If the individual learns their own behavior and realizes their own impact and how these contribute to destructive trends we can create opportunities.

    Adopting better habits doesn’t require wealth, unreasonable time commitments or a complete overhaul of your life. These are just a few of the misconceptions about “green” living that many Americans believe. Consider these and the following myths and their corresponding truths in order to take the first steps in your commitment to creating a better world.

    1. “Green” living is a virtuous trait, not an obligation

    While some people do make their commitment to green living a personality trait, we have to remember that it is the obligation of every individual to leave the planet in the same or better condition than how we found it. Since it is now commonly known that human activities are the biggest threat facing the global ecosystem, the only solution is for humans to clean up their mess. Do you expect the hummingbirds to do it? Maybe some rocks will help out.

    2. It will be too disruptive and difficult to change my current lifestyle

    There will probably be a period of adjustment as one makes the commitment to living more simply and reducing their impact, but difficult and disruptive are not necessarily the descriptive words I would choose to describe this period. Especially since it will probably have to be a gradual change, little things over the course of many weeks. This study gives some insight into how to develop new habits including a Japanese technique called Kaizen. Any activity repeated over a period of time can become a habit.

    3. “Green” products are hard to find and expensive

    In some cases, for example energy efficient appliances, this is true however in the long run these products save money in other areas, like your energy bill. On the other hand many earth-friendly products are actually less expensive than their conventional counterparts because they are often made using recycled or reclaimed materials, which require less processing and output less waste. Additionally the sustainable products industry is growing as more and more costumers prefer the earth-friendly alternative. Just remember that every purchase you make is a vote for more of that product, and producers listen.

    4. Earth-friendly preferences and behaviors will make me look cheap and eccentric

    To some, yes, but only those that do not understand the needs of our society and environment. Anyway acute intelligence and enlightenment have always been perceived as eccentric. However, there are ways to be thrifty and chic, something I will elaborate more fully on in a later post. Additionally Dr. Seuss says it best, “Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind, don’t matter.” Remember that.

    5. “Green” living requires a frugality that will deprive me and my family of comforts and conveniences I’ve earned

    Reasonable comforts and conveniences needn’t be sacrificed when making this commitment to a simpler life. The scale or quantity to which you’ve become accustomed to may need to be reduced but you may be surprised to learn that designer home furnishings, state-of-the-art appliances, a fancy schmancy car, fine cuisine and exotic vacations are available in earth-friendly forms. By taking a step away from the consumerism which drives many peoples lives you may just find a more satisfying, healthier, simpler and more balanced life.

    6. The economy will suffer if I stop buying conventionally

    Businesses and companies follow the consumer; if the consumer wants more eco-friendly products available at a lower price, the producer will supply it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, every purchase you make is a vote for what you want to buy.

    7. I don’t have time to support environmental causes

    You can choose how much time, if any, you want to give to support any cause that is important to you. The internet has made it simple to sign a petition or receive timely information at your convenience.

    8. It’s hypocritical to advocate and practice environmentally friendly behaviors in some, but not all, areas of my life

    Living the earth-friendly way is not the end of the road. It’s an evolution of states. No one can do it all because there is no all to do. There’s always something else you can learn, something else you can start practicing, something else you can sign a petition for. This is not meant to sound over-whelming, it’s meant to sound exciting, there are so many options for how you can do your part in a way that fits your lifestyle.

    9. I can’t change anything if some people aren’t doing anything at all

    Your efforts, no matter how small, in reducing your footprint makes a difference in that the collective footprint has been reduced. You must be the change you wish to see in the world. Ghandi said that so it must be true.

    10. There’s only one right answer to climate change

    This is beyond not true. Experts can’t agree on any answer to the problem because there is not one right answer. In my opinion the best answer starts with the individual and that means Y-O-U.

    Now that you know the truth about some of the pressing issues surrounding living sustainably are you ready to make a pledge to be “green”? Comment below if you are.